U.S. ammunition plant reaching its limit


January 12, 2004, 02:43 PM
Sunday, January 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

By Joseph L. Galloway
Knight Ridder Newspapers

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FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The U.S. military's only plant making small-arms ammunition is running at near capacity, 4 million rounds a day, and the United States still is forced to look overseas and to the recreational industry for ammunition for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and those training to deploy there soon.

Gen. Paul Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command, said Friday that giving those units priority ensured they had enough small-arms ammunition. "Everyone else will have to pay the price" and wait for it, he said.

The increased demand for ammunition for combat shooting and intensified training has made deep inroads in the nation's war reserves of ammunition, Kern said.

The sole plant making small-arms ammunition, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo., is running three eight-hour shifts a day, six days a week. The plant provides 5.56 mm rifle, 7.62 mm and .50 caliber machine gun as well as 9 mm pistol cartridges for all branches of the military.

Because of the increased demand for ammunition since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Kern said the Army in late December let two supplemental contracts to Olin Winchester of East Alton, Ill., and Israeli Military Industries for each to produce 70 million rifle rounds per month starting in June.

The general said it would probably take until 2005 to get small-arms ammunition production to a level at which there will be enough to cover all the increased training needs and begin rebuilding the war reserves.

"We can't just go out and buy our ammunition commercially," Kern said. "We maintain very tight quality controls. Our ammo has to work, at 40 below zero or 140 degrees."

He said the Army has put an additional $225 million into small-arms ammunition production and additional armor for Humvees since the 9-11 attacks.

In addition to combat requirements, two other factors were driving the increased demand for ammunition: increased live-fire training for combat-service-support units and the fact that Reserves and National Guard were shooting as much as the active Army as they trained for deployment

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January 12, 2004, 02:48 PM
2 questions:

1. Why do we only have 1 facility that makes small arms ammunition? What if it is damaged during conflict?

2. Why do we have ANY military facilites that produce ammunition? The ammo should be spec'd out and bids taken by commercial manufacturers. Military production is wasteful.

January 12, 2004, 02:57 PM
Before the 1990s all ammo was produced by government arsenals. In the 1990s we contracted out the running of the government plants. Olin actually runs the Lake City Plant.

The civilian manufacturing system could not keep up with what we would need, as we found out in WWII. But keeping old plants around for decades is very expensive.

This is why Base Closures are dangerous. Suddenlywhen there is a war, you need the stuff and you need it now but there isn't any bases or infrastructure left to ramp up.

Its a tough one to manage.

January 12, 2004, 03:00 PM
Military production is wasteful.

This is not necessarily true.

It is actually cheaper to produce your own stuff during the time of war. And you have better quality control. What is expensive is what to do with all the plants, land, workers, stock pile, machinery etc during peacetiem when they are idle.

Winchester had trouble meeting the spec of the M1 Garand during WWII and almost went out of business making them.

So what do you really mean by "wasteful?"

January 12, 2004, 03:30 PM
How is it Wasteful? ..... Ammunition is a commodity that can and is successfully produced by many manufacturers. Writing a specification and allowing these manufacturers to bid, provides the best opportunity at efficiency due to competitive pressure. A bid is more than just a price offer. The manufacturers must also provide plans on how they will meet production requirements, prove their financial health, etc…... at least this is how it was done when I was involved with outsourcing contracts (not government). I too have heard jokes about government bids only going to the lowest bidder, but this poor practice does not nullify the efficiency of the market.

Government manufacturing is inherently inefficient and wasteful because it lacks the natural selection of the market. It is why the Soviet Union’s economy was much less effective than ours.

I too love the history of the Springfield Armory (not the one in Illinois :)) and Lake City Arsenal, but I am a strong believer in the efficiency of the free market and cannot believe that the government is more efficient at manufacturing commodities. If they are more efficient at manufacturing ammunition, then it would seem that they would be more efficient at producing everything and we should quickly move to a command economy. :)

I think it is wasteful because I equate inefficiency with waste.

It is actually cheaper to produce your own stuff during the time of war. And you have better quality control. What is expensive is what to do with all the plants, land, workers, stock pile, machinery etc during peacetiem when they are idle.

Oh yeah, I forgot to answer this. It is the capital and expertise being idled during times of low use that GREATLY contribute to the inefficiency and waste.

Mike Irwin
January 12, 2004, 03:38 PM
The military and civilian sectors have a LONG history of collaboration to make ammunition.

During World War I I believe that Remington Arms made something like 35 billion rounds of .30-06 ammo for the US government. Much of it was still in reserve at the start of World War II.

I have in my collection a FANTASTIC operations manual that describes in great detail how a civilian built and run ammo production facility is to be operated and managed.

4v50 Gary
January 12, 2004, 03:54 PM
Forgot what class of aircraft carrier many years ago, but the Navy Yard could make it cheaper than the civilian shipbuilders could. But you know who got the contract with Congressional pressure because of constitutents....

January 12, 2004, 09:22 PM
Probably another program that suffered with Clintons "Do more with less":rolleyes:

rock jock
January 12, 2004, 09:47 PM
What is expensive is what to do with all the plants, land, workers, stock pile, machinery etc during peacetiem when they are idle.
Which is why they should be selling to the civilian market during peacetime. Now, I'm not sure I could keep them busy by firing 70 million rounds a month on my own, but I'm willing to try.

January 12, 2004, 10:14 PM
It is actually cheaper to produce your own stuff during the time of war. And you have better quality control. What is expensive is what to do with all the plants, land, workers, stock pile, machinery etc during peacetiem when they are idle.

Couldn't you just keep the plants, land, workers etc during peacetime but have it produce the ammunition for the unorganized militia instead? ;)

So, just keep the factory going, to supply recreational shooters and ex-military during peacetime. But that would mean that civilians would need to have access to the same hardware that is used by the military, and we know what Congress did to that when it deemed that once-a-full-auto-always-a-full-auto. :fire:

In this scenario, when wartime hits, the factory is already going, but now the allocation is back to the military. Heck, with the profits generated during peacetime, the military could finance another factory.

January 12, 2004, 10:38 PM

I think in many cases, private business don't feel military contracts are profitable. The Big Three auto companies refuse to be invovled with military production because they work on a large economy of scale and the relatively small amount opf military vehicles needed don't come close to what the companies produce for the civilian market. The capacity they have for production is better put to use for civilian automobiles.

So from a company buisness viewpoint, military production is not always good business. Loom into the problems that Stewart and Stevenson had taking on the the FMTV truck production. They were a refirgerator company that took this contract and almost went under doing it as they many production problems.

To actually make militarty contracts profitable, the cost of the item has to be exaggerated. The price is padded and in many cases a government production facility could make it cheaper. There is also very little competetion anymore. There are only two aircaft manufactureres for military aircraft: Boeing and Lockheed-Martine. There are only two combat vehicle manufatureres: GDLS and UDLP, both of them will particpate in the Future Combat System under Boeing as the lead system integrator. So what we really have are a few civilian owned firms that only do military cxontracts and are subsidized by the government through price increases, cost padding or contract sharing. So the product costs the tax payer more to make than if it was done in a government facility, now that is truely wasteful.

This ammo situation is the same. The government owned facility is run by Olin who get to make military ammuniton in a government plant using government purchase tooling and sell it to the government for a profit and when they can't meet the wartime production demand a new contract is let eith Olin's subsidiary, Winchester to make ammo in the civilian facility which means the government will pay a premium for the ammuniton. And that won't even meet the demand so we let a contract to Israeli Military Industries,a government owned facility of a nother government to make ammuniton in a plant we probably paid for with grants to Israelis?

There's no "free market" here, and there certainly is a lot of waste of money.

Now, if the government would have properly stock piled ammuniton and moth balled government anmmuniton factories instead of selling them off and rock bopttm prices (The Tank Plant in Warren, MI wne to the City of Warren for some rediculous price, and Warren turned around and leased it to a steel company at market prices and is making a killing).

Conatracting out of government service is not always a cost saving like conventional wisdom thinks it is.

January 12, 2004, 11:30 PM
I'll take some LC ammo for my L1A1. How much per thousand?

Dave R
January 12, 2004, 11:39 PM
It should be quite easy for commercial manufacturers to ramp up on a military small arms ammo contract. Where's the magic? There's:

-The brass. Commercial ammo makers make equiv. of military brass.
-The powder. Spec. it. There's gotta be multiple sources.
-The primers. Same thing. Speer makes mil-spec primers. I'm sure others do, too.
-The bullets. FMJ for the most part, fer crying out loud.

Shoot, I reload military brass with a mil-spec load. And if _I_ can do it....

Now artillery, etc. is a different story. But 9mm?

January 13, 2004, 12:24 AM
Conatracting out of government service is not always a cost saving like conventional wisdom thinks it is.


Good points. You may be right. In fact, I'm sure you're right based on previous experience and examples. My argument is based on theory and principle, and results in the private sector. The reason that so many private companies decline government bids is because the government treats them so poorly and the contracts are so poorly managed. It's sad but true so you are probably correct that “given the situation” the military may be best off making it themselves. It is unfortunate, however because it is a proven fact that competition is what breeds efficiency (Do you think we could have developed the A-bomb so quickly if we didn’t think the Nazis were working on it too?). So corruption and mismanagement doom us to wasting our money and effort. :(

I agree with others on the selling of surplus stock and overruns to US citizens. That would be a terrific recuperative effort to maintain efficiency.

January 13, 2004, 12:43 AM
U.S. ammunition plant reaching its limit

My bad :o

January 13, 2004, 12:39 PM
Actually, last I heard, the Lake City plant is run by Alliant Technologies. They recently purchased the Federal ammunition plant in Anoka MN from Blount because they needed technical assistance in running the LC plant. I'm betting they will offer to produce in Anoka too. I know a few people that work there.


January 13, 2004, 01:27 PM
Alliant Tech Systems owns Federal cartridge company, same as they own Blount, which owns RCBS.

How do I know, I did my research when I wanted to buy some gun company stocks.

ATK i think is their symbol name. :D

January 13, 2004, 04:03 PM
Guess i'll have to start selling ammo out of the back of my van.........

January 13, 2004, 04:26 PM
Speaking of Alliant Tech Systems, wasn't the Radford Army Arsenal once an ammunition manufacturing plant? I seem to remember seeing some military ammo with "R A" on the headstamp where the Twin Cities or Lake City arsenals would be. I wonder why they can't ramp that place up for production?
Well, at least I'm glad that I can still produce for my own ammuntion needs, even if the government can't provide for it's needs. ;)

Mike Irwin
January 13, 2004, 04:34 PM
The RA headstamp is normally found on ammo produced by Remington Arms IIRC.

"Ramping up" to produce ammunition is a HUGE investment in both time and money.

January 13, 2004, 05:00 PM
They make stuff that goes boom mostly.

Arsenal Fact Box

Owner: U.S. Army

Contract operator: Alliant Techsystems

Acreage: Main site (powder plant) - 4080 acres
Dublin site (bag loading plant) - 2821 acres

Employees: Alliant - 1250
U.S. government - 29
U.S. Army - 2
Contractors - 125
Buildings: 1038 (about half are unused)

Total annual operating budget: about $123 million

Total annual payroll: about $60 million

Products: propellants, explosives, chemicals

Current production level: 30-40 percent of capacity

Source: Radford Army Amunition Plant

Local content copyright © 1998 The Roanoke Times

January 13, 2004, 05:06 PM
Speaking of stuff that goes boom, now RAAP has contracts to make about 15 million pounds of TNT per year and develop 25mm M910E1 training ammunition. JT

Here's part of Representative Rick Boucher's speech:

Radford Army Ammunition Plant

November 10, 2003

I am pleased to visit the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) this morning to celebrate the award of two significant Department of Defense contracts to Alliant Techsystems (ATK). These contracts represent a federal investment of $133.5 million in the Arsenal which will create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the New River Valley.

Several weeks ago, I announced a large federal Defense contract to ATK in the amount of $130 million over five years to produce TNT. The contract will make RAAP the first domestic source of TNT in 17 years. By year three of the contract, the Radford Arsenal will be the sole supplier of TNT in the United States for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Alliant was awarded the $130 million Defense contract through a competitive bidding process adjudicated by the Department of Defense. To successfully compete for this contract, Alliant had to show appropriate capability to produce TNT and other explosive materials to meet the future munitions needs of the nation. The decision to award the federal contract to ATK and the Radford Arsenal illustrates the confidence that the federal government places in ATK and its employees and in the workforce at RAAP.

As part of the contract, RAAP will become the immediate supplier of energetic material which is used in the making of general purpose bombs for the U.S. Air Force while construction and renovation work is performed to enable the Arsenal to produce TNT.

Engineering and design work have already begun at the Arsenal to completely renovate the TNT plant which has been out of use since 1986. Over the course of the next 2 to 3 years, ATK will invest $16 million to upfit and install the facility with the modern equipment necessary to produce TNT. The restoration work will, in the short term, create a range of engineering, contracting and construction jobs in the New River Valley during the course of the $16 million renovation project.

Following the rehabilitation of the TNT plant, the Arsenal will begin producing approximately 15 million pounds of TNT per year. The TNT production will generate an annual revenue stream of as much as $30 million in sales per year for RAAP and will create as many as 150 new jobs to the great benefit of the economy in the New River Valley.

A second Department of Defense contract has also been awarded to the Radford Arsenal and will bring a total federal investment of $3.5 million over two years to the New River Valley. The federal Defense contract is to develop 25mm M910E1 training ammunitions which will be used by the U.S. Army. This contract is the first medium caliber ammunition development contract in nearly ten years. Following the term of the development contract, RAAP will be considered for a contract to produce the training munitions which would greatly increase the value of the contract and provide further federal investment in the Radford Arsenal.

The two federal Defense contract awards mark the most recent of a line of successes for Alliant Techsystems and for the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. I congratulate ATK for its outstanding management of the Radford Arsenal and for its successful competition to receive these two multi-million dollar federal investments.

I want to thank U.S. Senator John Warner for the support he has provided to ATK and the Radford Arsenal in seeking these federal contracts. Senator Warner and I made every effort to ensure that Alliant’s bid for the federal contracts received the fairest consideration possible by the Army. His support and assistance was essential to the award of these contracts to Alliant.

January 14, 2004, 12:09 PM
Speaking of Army Ammunition plants, there are several of them:
Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant -

Iowa Army Ammunition Plant -
American Ordnance, LLC

Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant -
Valentec Systems, Inc. / NWLCC

Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant -
Mason Technologies Inc.

Lake City Army Ammunition Plant -
Alliant Techsystems

Scranton Army Ammunition Plant -
Chamberlain Mfg. Corp.

Holston Army Ammunition Plant -
British Aerospace
Royal Ordnance North America, Inc.

Milan Army Ammunition Plant -
American Ordnance, LLC

Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant -
Day & Zimmermann, Inc.

Radford Army Ammunition Plant -
Alliant Ammunition and Powder Company

Headquarters, U.S. Army Operations Support Command
Rock Island Arsenal

All are being run by contractors it seems. So "ramping up" production should only be an issue of talking to whoever has the mnufacturing capability for 7.62x51 and 5.56. I can't believe that only Lake City has tooling for making small arms ammo! That 70m contract that IMI got is over 50% of the entire current operating annual budget for Radford. I'd think that that would be worth the cost of starting up operations.

January 14, 2004, 12:49 PM
They can increase production by 16.6% or an additional 664,000 rounds per week by working the plant SEVEN days a week.

Do the GI's stop shooting on Sundays?

If this was a civilian run plant, someone would have though of that by now!

January 14, 2004, 04:35 PM
they probably need one day a week for plant maintainance and modification.
We sold the sole remaining government ammunition factory to British Wasteofspace some years ago. If it looses government contracts on price grounds then it will close....and there won't be any domestic source of S.A.A at all, and the foreign bidders will be at liberty to set whatever price they want. Already, with the closure of ROF Bishopton there is no domestic source of propellant. It is all imported from Holland, where British Wasteofspace bought Muiden International Chemie to have an 'assured' (yeah, right) source of supply.

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